Thursday, July 14, 2011

"This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this."

Thus spake Barack Obama . . .

. . . to the Republican non-negotiator Eric Cantor, who was holding out for huge spending cuts without adding one dollar of revenue increases. And then, when that got no traction from the president, he pushed for a short term, stop gap measure, which is what prompted the president to say:
"Eric, don't call my bluff. I'm going to the American people on this. This process is confirming what the American people think is the worst about Washington: that everyone is more interested in posturing, political positioning, and protecting their base, than in resolving real problems."
And he added:
"I am totally willing to do the hard stuff to get well above what you need and you won't do it because you can't put one penny of revenue on the table."
And he concluded:
"I've reached my limit. This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this."
According to Democrats, Cantor sat silently as he was being dressed down by the president. But later he told reporters:
“I know why he lost his temper. He’s frustrated. We’re all frustrated."
I say it's about time he lost his temper. He's frustrated because he's been trying to negotiate in good faith, and McConnell, Boehner, and Cantor haven't given an inch.

So, get mad, Mr. President. Get damn mad. Go to the American people and tell them why you are "frustrated" with the Republicans. I guarantee that, if you explain it properly, you will get the backing of 60% of the American people, at least. And on something so divisive, that's very very good. It will not bring down your presidency. What might bring it down is your caving in on this.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Aunt Minnie" McConnell

I imply no doubt about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's manhood when I call him "Aunt Minnie" -- but, in his chinless-ness and droopy jowls, he does for all the world look to me like the stereotypical, fussy, old Aunt Minnie, lacking only the frilly lace boudoir cap and pince nez.

Like so many Aunt Minnies, McConnell's demure looks belie a mean spirit and an even sharper tongue.

As leader of the Senate Republicans, even more than House Speaker Boehner, he has dug in his heels and proved himself to be single-mindedly committed to anything that would prevent Obama's success. Right now he is working to prevent a deal on the debt ceiling.

He's the one who is saying "no in thunder." He with no chin acts like the biggest bully on the block.

Now he has come up with the crazy scheme to put the whole responsibility for the debt on Obama's shoulders. As though Republicans had absolutely nothing to do with creating the problem. So -- his scheme is to give Obama the power to raise the debt ceiling, then blame him for anything short of a miracle turn-around of the economy. It can't make things better; it can only prevent the disaster that will occur if they don't do it, that is if we don't pay our already-incurred debts.

Their logic is the same we encountered in the 1960's Japan -- where the actual rules of the road that govern legal responsibility for accidents declare that the last person who could have possibly prevented the accident, and didn't, is considered the sole cause of the accident. That is, if an oncoming driver crosses the median and runs into you head on -- and if you could have swerved into the ditch to avoid him, and didn't -- then the accident is your fault.

It's Obama's deficit, and Aunt Minnie is trying to make it Obama's sole responsibility. Never mind that Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy and starting two wars without paying for them, in addition to at least shared responsibility for the financial crisis -- all bespeak major, and I would say primary, Republican responsibility for our predicament.

Nevertheless, here's what the Great Chinless One said:
"I refuse to help Barack Obama get reelected by marching Republicans into a position where we have co-ownership of a bad economy. . . . What will happen is the administration will send out notices to 80 million Social Security recipients and to military families and they will all start attacking members of Congress. That is not a useful place to take us. And the president will have the bully pulpit to blame Republicans for all this disruption.

"If we go into default he will say Republicans are making the economy worse. And all of a sudden we have co-ownership of a bad economy. That is a very bad position going into an election. My first choice was to do something important for the country. But my second obligation is to my party and my conference to prevent them from being sucked into a horrible position politically that would allow the president, probably, to get reelected because we didn't handle this difficult situation correctly."

There's a little problem of historical reality here. This is the same Aunt Minnie McConnell that said, after the 2010 elections, that the top priority for his newly empowered party was to ensure the defeat of Obama's reelection. That sentiment has since become the more bumper-sticker friendly slogan: "Make Obama a one-term president."

Excuse me, who is playing politics, Aunt Minne? Go back to your knitting, you dottering old idiot !!!


PS: Yes, you betcha, I am indulging in an ad hominem attack. And I freely admit that's what it is. This man deserves it and is a great target for it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Betty Ford's death makes us recall what it was like in Washington when her husband was president. She has made a request that will make that even more pointed.

Journalist and news commentator Cokie Roberts says that fives year ago Mrs. Ford asked her to deliver one of the eulogies at her funeral -- with a specific request for the content.

Cokie (Boggs) Roberts' father, Congressman Hale Boggs (D-LA) was the House Majority Leader when Gerald Ford was House Minority Leader, and they worked together amiably and as friends. Mrs. Ford asked her to talk about the time in Washington when Democrats and Republicans were friends.

That's the good.

Unfortunately, members of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church, will supply the bad and the ugly. They plan to picket at her funeral in California, as well as the service that will be held back in her former home in Michigan.

They will be exercising their rights of free speech, upheld by the Supreme Court in a case arising from their picketing at a dead soldier's funeral. It may be legal, but it doesn't make it right.

Betty Ford deserves to be laid to rest without such trash and such perversion of Christianity -- as did the returning soldiers, and gay men like Matthew Sheppard, whose funerals were picketed by the WBC crowd.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Off the table

Here's what I think Obama and Pelosi should do:

John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are adamant that raising taxes on the wealthy, even to close absurdly unneeded loopholes, is "off the table."

So the Democrats should reply by saying: OK. Here's our position. Cutting spending on a single program that benefits the middle class or the poor and needy is off the table, absolutely, no exceptions.

Now, it's time for you Republicans to make a negotiating offer that's something other than simply demanding 100% of what you want.

In fact, in his news conference, Obama did refer to the Republicans as having a "my way or the highway" position on taxes. And he said he, "I don't see a path to a deal if they don't budge."


Obama's press conference

Obama held a press conference this morning about the debt negotiations. Here are some of his main points:

1. We cannot keep putting off the hard decisions. Nobody likes to have to make the hard decisions, and part of the reason we are in this crisis is because we have kept doing that. Now is the time we must step up and do what has to be done. He says he will not sign a bill that makes just a temporary, 30 day or 3 month stop-gap measure. It is time now to tackle the long-range problem.

2. If either side continues to insist on getting 100% of what they want, we won't be able to do anything. Each side is going to have to give up something that they want -- Republicans on taxes, Democrats on entitlements. And both sides will have a tough job selling it to their parties.

3. He acknowledged that Boehner has a hard job to sell any compromise to his caucus, just as he himself has a hard job to sell compromise to Democrats. He said that his experience with Boehner has been good, that he is a decent man who wants to do right by the country; but that the politics that swept him into the Speaker's position were good for winning the mid-term elections but make it hard to govern (ie the division between Tea Partiers and other Republicans).

4. Obama pretty forcefully (but not angrily) said that he has offered a package that is far from what he wants. But he feels that it is balanced and fair. He has already offered that as a compromise, and now the Republicans will have to do the same. He gave the strong impression that he has offered a compromise that is contingent on them giving up some things too, not that he is just caving in.

5. On tax cuts, he really tried to soften it, saying that none of the things being talked about will raise taxes immediately but rather beginning in 2013. Which left me wondering . . . but don't the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of 2011 unless they are renewed? He later made reference to wealthy people like him and Warren Buffett being willing to pay more, so it sounded like that was part of the package, but he didn't address that directly. Rather, he talked about closing loopholes like the tax breaks for corporate jets.

[Later thought: Actually, he's right. If tax cuts expire at the end of 2011, it will not affect the 2012 budget, which has already been set; it will affect the 2013 budget.]

6. When asked about the 60+% of public who oppose raising the debt ceiling, he said the public isn't really paying attention to the details of our fiscal crisis. If you phrase the question like: "Do you think it's a good idea for the United States to fail to pay its bills and to risk loss of confidence in our nation?" -- he thought he could get a majority to support him on that. Good point. But then why haven't Democrats taken to the airwaves to push that way of looking at it? In fact, the question was posed something like: do you think you've done enough to convince the American people of the need to raise the ceiling? He really avoided that. And that is part of the problem.

7. He says that Social Security is included in this package because, if you're going to have to take hard votes, you might as well do them all at once, rather than coming back later and trying to get hard decisions made about Social Security. But he was clear and definitive that Social Security did not cause the deficit, and it will not be cut in order to solve the deficit.

My impression: if this was my first observation of Obama as a leader in position to negotiate, I would be very impressed. Unfortunately, my impressions are also colored by repeated instances of being impressed by what he says and then disappointed in the results.

But then . . . there's the fact that he did get a health care reform enacted -- not what we would like but better than what we had. So . . . let's see what happens between now and August 2nd, the deadline for the raising the debt ceiling.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Debt despair

I want to keep on just blaming the Republicans who are sticking to their promise to do everything in their power to make sure that Obama is a one-term president.

Just saying No to anything he proposes is not honest negotiating. They have drawn a line in the sand against any revenue increases, including such sane and simple suggestions as eliminating tax breaks for purchasing and operating corporate private jets.

For two years, I have been standing up for Obama against my progressive friends who insist that he could be doing more, showing stronger leadership; that he is being too quick to compromise, too often announcing his fall-back position at the beginning.

The point I kept making was that Obama had not abandoned our ideals, which are his ideals also, but that he was doing the best he could with the opposition he was given. I said, over and over, that we should not blame him, but blame ourselves for not electing a Congress that he could work with. We should not give up on Obama; we should redouble efforts to elect a Congress to help him in 2012.

With great sadness, I am slowly coming around to admitting that I am very disappointed in him. I really believe that he has a personality inhibition against being the bold, assertive leader we need. Given his background, that is in no way surprising. In another time, with less determined opposition, he has the makings for a great leader. But he's not a great leader against strong opposition.

I didn't expect it, because on the campaign trail he seemed bold and assertive. But that's very different from actually governing and doing the backroom stuff that LBJ was so good at. Here was a white man from Texas who got the Civil Rights Act passed against massive resistance from powerful Southern politicians. It wasn't because he was too quick to compromise; he knew how to exert his strong will and the power of his office.

I now agree that Obama is taking the wrong path in trying to negotiate with Boehner and Mitchell. He is negotiating as you do when you have two sides that are both committed to finding a solution. That is not the case with Congress. The Repubs are committed to making him fail. And time and again, he wants so badly to get something accomplished that he gives away too much and too soon.

They have learned that all they have to do is dig in their heels and just say no. And eventually he will cave.

I'm afraid that's where we are right now on the debt ceiling crisis. They are saying "NO" in thunder and determination. What's he going to do?

I fear that he will cave and give up on raising taxes on the wealthy and the corporations, and take it from the poor and elderly.

Please, Mr. President, prove me wrong.